Six years ago today, I was in a car accident that almost killed me. I was 19 at the time, just finished the fall semester of my sophomore year of college with horrible grades, and very emotional from an incident with my ex-boyfriend that evening. Plans were made, he ditched the plans, and when I cried, he told me “Your tears don’t matter to me”. I was crushed. He was really the only reason why I was in that area in the first place (then come to find out he was wishing I would get hit by a car). My friend Jenny invited me over to her place for New Year’s and with eyes full of tears and a broken heart, I got in my car and made my way toward her place. I was driving onto the I-8 west from Montezuma Road in the rain. My car hydroplaned, and I lost control. I hit the railing and skidded into the railing over the road. I got out of the car, a girl stopped and called my mom for me, and another man stopped and helped direct traffic. I was in Jekyll & Hyde at the time, and we were in tech, so all my costumes, makeup, shoes, etc. were in the car. I knew my car would have to be towed, so I opened the backseat (driver’s side) door and started to go through my things. Then, I turned around and saw a car heading towards me.
The car headed towards me. The car hit me. I flew onto the hood of the car, rolled off the hood and I fell 25 feet down to the road below. I landed on my hip and I laid there crying and screaming for help. I remembered wiggling my toes to make sure I wasn’t paralyzed. Toes moved. Good. I tasted blood in my mouth. All my teeth there? Yes. Hair covering my face. Arms around my head. I couldn’t move. My lower body burned. Why couldn’t I move? Why was I conscious this whole time? I kept screaming and crying for help. I heard a bunch of women rush to me. Immediately, one of them asked if there was anyone that needed to be called and I said, “My mother” and I was able to give her my mother’s number. The rest of the women laid their hands on me and started to pray for me. The burning in my lower body eased a little.
I started to hear the ambulance sirens. The wailing got louder and louder until finally, I heard the paramedics approach me. They immediately asked me if I had been drinking. I get it. New Year’s Eve, girl falls off a freeway ramp. I told them no. Then I heard a spectator say that I was drunk. Really? Anyway. The paramedic told me that they would have to turn me onto my back. I said okay. I didn’t anticipate the excruciating pain that followed. I screamed. I couldn’t take the pain. Then, the paramedics used shears to cut my clothes off and another paramedic waited by with a blanket and covered me immediately. As I was on my back, I saw the woman who hit me. She was leaning over the guard rail, crying. We locked eyes for a moment until I was carried onto the ambulance. I heard my mother’s voice. I couldn’t move my neck but I can’t forget the fear and pain in her voice as she told me she loved me. I told her that I loved her too and to call my best friends at the time. I needed support.
The trip to the hospital was a blur. My blood pressure was so low that they couldn’t give me anything for the pain. Every bump into the hospital hurt. I remember the room. It was so white. The man laying next to me was covered in blood. They had to put a shield between us and all I saw was red. The doctors told me that they had to move me from the stretcher to the bed. I started crying again because I knew of the pain that was to come. I begged him to not move me. My body was broken. The doctor insisted that they would do the best they can to support the broken portion of my body. As I cried and begged, a nurse put her hand on my head and held my hand with the other. The crew counted to three. I screamed again. The pain was unbearable. I saw my mother and Lizz, my best friend at the time, turn away as I screamed. I remember everything was cloudy. My blood pressure was so low, and the doctors were injecting things in me and telling me to stay with them. Was I dying? I looked over at the shield next to me and the man next to me was so still. Was I in a room where people had died? I looked back up to the ceiling. Slowly, things became sharp again. I heard muddled voices and eventually I closed my eyes.
I’m not sure if I died, but I saw things. I saw things that I still can’t explain to this day.
I opened my eyes and I looked at the clock. The neck brace was gone. And there was a hospital volunteer cleaning the blood off my face. I’ll never forget his name. His name was Joe Apple. As he was cleaning up the blood from my face, I looked at the clock again and it was 12:02am. It was 2006 officially. I looked at Joe and wished him a happy new year. I was feeling much better, realizing that I was given pain medication finally. Morphine is good stuff. That evening, I had to get a catheter (not so fun), and I had to get compression socks put onto my legs. I couldn’t walk. I could feel my legs, but every attempt to move them was rewarded with awful pain. The police came in and got a statement from me. My nurse was wonderful. She made me feel so safe and she sat and held my hand as I was crying. I couldn’t be in my show anymore, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t move in my bed. Eventually, after being covered with numerous warm blankets, and being comforted by my nurse in the late hours, I fell asleep. That night, I vertically sheared my pelvis, broke three vertebraes in my back, shattered my tailbone and lost a little chunk of my arm and gashed my forehead. The next morning would being a six month road to recovery and transitioning back to normal life. The road would include major surgery, living in a wheelchair, using a walker, months of physical therapy, and forming bonding friendships and relationships that would change my life forever.
As I look back on that night, six long years ago, I look at the person I am today. While I was recovering at home, my friends came over every week to have movie night with me. They didn’t mind taking me out and trekking my wheelchair in their trunk. I truly believe that if my friends weren’t there, I probably wouldn’t have survived the road to recovery. Every New Year’s Eve, I look back and think about how much worse this car accident could have been. The traffic light on the street below where I landed, happen to be red at the time. Otherwise, I could have been hit by another car after I landed, or worse, landed on a moving vehicle. The angle I landed was weird. I didn’t land on my head, even though I rolled off head first. I didn’t land on my legs or my bottom. I landed in a position that did the least amount of damage. I’m grateful to be alive today and with all the “what-ifs” that continue to go through my head, I can only account for the fact that I’m alive, I can walk, run, skate, and dance. I only experience residual hip pain on occasion, especially if it’s cold. Besides a scar on my backside, if you met me today, you couldn’t tell what happened six years ago.
Then I think about the people I met that night; Joe Apple, the nurse, the girl who helped me in the first accident, the woman who called my mother for me, and the mysterious women who prayed over me. I kept in brief touch with all but the mysterious women. No one remembers their presence. Not even the woman who called my mother. But I know they were there. I felt their hands on me. I remember their voices and calming words.
As I close this reflection, I have to acknowledge the several people who were there for me through thick and thin while I was recovering; Amber, Lizz, Natasha, Lauren, Dante, Robby, Alex, Jenny, JJ, Dirk, Anneke, Shaun, Cory, Troy, Joe, Laura, Jordy, Leilani, Maria, John and if there was anyone I forgot, my sincerest apologies. There were so many that helped me and were there for me. I was overwhelmed by the support and I know God was watching over me not only the night of my accident, but also brought me wonderful people to be there for me during recovery.
And finally, my mother. She was the biggest trooper in this whole situation. She had to watch me, her daughter, suffer and nearly die while maintaining her own strength and her patience. I wasn’t the easiest person to deal with. I often got frustrated with my current state and took it out on her. I cried daily, I felt so helpless and she was there for me. I could never repay the commitment, love, and kindness she showed, as well as giving me a slap of reality when I got too dramatic and feeling sorry for myself.
The message I want to leave you with is to cherish your time and make the most out of your life and the most important of all…love. Do everything with love and compassion. Life is too short to focus on the negative and hatred. Sometimes the most bitterest of people need love in their life and no one was brave enough to even attempt to show them love. Also, if I have learned anything from the experience of my car accident, don’t wait to lose weight before you go to the spa, don’t wait until things “seem right” to take a chance. Do it now. You never know when life can change (or end) in an instant. Live your life to the fullest. Love the people around you and love the strangers in your life. You never know what may happen in the future. Be ready for anything to happen. Bad things happen, but focus on your response and how you handle the bad times.
And finally, may the year 2012 be the year that all your dreams come true.